Concertgoers at Bataclan Describe Horrifying Paris Attack and Moments of Compassion from Neighbors in Aftermath
The scene inside the Bataclan, the Parisian concert hall assaulted by a group of gunmen in the deadliest of six coordinated attacks in the city Friday night, was, at first, “packed” with a crowd of all ages, including parents and their teenage children, two eyewitnesses told the French newspaper Le Figaro.
The mood was “very jovial” and the performances began about 9 p.m. local time, said witnesses Benjamin and Celia, who were not referenced by their last names.
Music had been playing for about an hour, they said. Then the shooting started, following explosions that the pair at first mistook for fireworks for the concert.
Their account for Le Figaro is one of the most detailed yet from inside the Bataclan, where dozens were left dead following a chaotic shoot-out, hostage situation and eventual police assault.
“A body fell on me, it was spilling blood on my legs. A woman next to me had blood on his face, but she was alive,” Benjamin told Le Figaro in French, which has been translated. “The person next to me, a 50-year-old man, had been shot in the face.”
“I tried to look at the ground. It was a huge puddle of blood,” Benjamin continued. “I was surprisingly calm, I felt my time coming.”
Benjamin said he saw four assailants, all “very young.”
“They wore big jackets. One of the jackets was beige. Two of the attackers were dressed in black. He who had a beige jacket, had a short beard,” Benjamin said.
One of the gunmen said, “You killed our brothers in Syria, now we are there,” the pair told Le Figaro.
The Islamic State (ISIS) has reportedly claimed responsibility in a press release for the wave of carnage, mocking the “obscenity” and sinfulness of the French capital. French President Francois Hollande also blames ISIS for the attacks.
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Inside the Bataclan, Benjamin and Celia described initial, nearly constant violence, as the gunmen shot attendees without pause.
The assault lengthened into a hostage situation.
After about 15 minutes, there was a rush of some attendees across the venue, the pair said, and some people managed to escape through the front door. There was a stampede.
At about 10:30 p.m. local time, the pair said they were waved out by a police officer.
Outside, Benjamin and Celia said they were met by police and firefighters. A neighboring family came down to the street and offered them a drink and opened their doors to them..
A friend arrived for them at about 4 in the morning, Benjamin told Le Figaro, in tears: “We needed to see people we knew.”
At least 80 people were killed in the Bataclan shooting, according to BBC, making it the bloody center of the Friday violence that killed at least 128, according to French media.
Police eventually overtook the venue after midnight, with some hostages still inside, according to the New York Times.
All four attackers were killed in the attack, according to the Times, citing French media. Three of them blew themselves up.
“They came in with what looked like Kalashnikovs and fired blindly on the crowd,” journalist Julien Pearce told the BBC of the gunmen, adding, “They were shooting at us like if we were birds.”
Two witnesses told CNN that the gunmen sounded like “native French speakers” and kept mentioning Syria.
Members of Eagles of Death Metal, the American band that had just taken the stage before the shooting, are all safe, the band’s rep said on Friday. White Lines, the band opening for Eagles of Death Metal, are also safe, their rep tells PEOPLE.
An eyewitness at a second attack, on a restaurant, told PEOPLE he saw “absolute carnage.”
“I saw people die. I saw people die,” Jean Pierre said. “I had people die in my arms. There wasn’t anything you could do to help them.”
He continued: “You don’t see what is left behind you. I went into the restaurant and I can never forget what I saw. I will never understand, never comprehend what I saw. I can’t. I saw people seated in the restaurant. Dead.”
Hollande has condemned the attacks as an “act of war” by ISIS. He vowed that France would be “ruthless” in response.
An Instagram user who was at the venue on Friday posted an update on Saturday, writing, “no words.”
• With reporting by PETER MIKELBANK, KEVIN O’DONNELL and MARIA MERCEDES LARA